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Iranian Professors Urge Ayatollah Khamenei to Halt Government Violence

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (file photo)

A group of 88 Iranian professors has addressed a letter to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling for him to put a stop to violence against opposition protesters.

Large and noisy demonstrations have also rocked campuses across Iran in recent days and weeks, according to eyewitness reports and videos posted on opposition websites. Students at Tehran's prestigious Amir Kabir University are reported to be refusing to take exams.

Amid a deepening government crackdown on dissent, Iranian TV showed several-dozen young people, many of them students, being brought before a court Sunday, where they were accused of being "rioters," and "belonging to banned political organizations."

Reza Moini of Paris-based Reporters Without Borders says the professor's letter to Khamenei urges him to put a stop to the acts of violence against students committed in his name by pro-government militias, such as the Basij.

He says the Khamenei letter is important because students began a strike last week and some are refusing to take their exams, following a government attack on students at Mashhad University. Basij militia attacks on campuses, he notes, have continued since school began in September, so the professors are asking Ayatollah Khamenei if he supports violence, arrests, attacks and wounding of students made in his name by pro-government supporters.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi's Facebook website also carried a call by five prominent Iranian intellectuals, now living abroad, demanding the government release political prisoners, allow freedom of the press, annul contested June elections, recognize all political movements, and prosecute government agents with blood on their hands.

Meanwhile, Intelligence Minister Haidar Moslehi continued to evoke the government theme that foreign powers were behind recent unrest and protests in Iran, claiming that a number of alleged foreign agents had been arrested.

He says that several foreigners are among those arrested during Ashoura protests against the government. He says they were waging psychological warfare against the regime... and were carrying cameras and other equipment.

Amid repeated calls by government officials to prosecute opposition activists, Iran's judiciary reconfirmed a stiff sentence against opposition journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi. Reza Moini of Reporters Without Borders says Zeidabadi's crime was "simply to call on Ayatollah Khamenei to denounce violence in the country."